Anxiety Medication for Dogs: A Kindness, Not a Failure
Anxiety, reactivity, fear and aggression are not just training issues. In fact, it’s often difficult or even impossible to make meaningful progress until we are able to collaborate with a veterinarian or veterinary behaviourist. Why? Because in order to make progress in our training plan, our dogs have to be in the right state of mind to relax and learn.
What do we typically see from dogs who find the right medication?
- longer fuse before fight/flight reaction - more breathing room to think and learn - better recovery time - less intensity
Can we train for these issues without medication? Absolutely, with a few caveats:
- progress will likely be slower or plateau - quality of life will likely be reduced for both dog and family (as issue will be less easily managed/modified)
If debating whether or not to move forward with a meds consult, consider:
- what is the gold standard of treatment for certified trainers and veterinary behaviourists when it comes to this issue? - is this issue negatively impacting my or my dog’s quality of life? - what are the downsides to the medication? Are they worse than the downsides of the behaviour problem?
A good, certified trainer should be an open book. They should be able to tell you why exactly they are recommending speaking with your vet and what the results of those conversations have been for other clients. They should be able to give you a general prognosis for your dog’s behaviour and situation with and without veterinary support, based on similar cases.
If your trainer is staunchly against behaviour medication, if they’re perpetrating myths about medication making dogs zombies or being “the easy way out”, or if they are pushing you to try medication without respecting your comfort and boundaries, find someone else.
Tess Morgan is a multicertified, positive reinforcement-based dog trainer and behaviour specialist serving clients in-person in London, Ontario and online. Interested in working with Tess?